Retail arm to attract next set of global investors, says Mukesh Ambani

WhatsApp’s user base of over 400 million users in India will help accelerate the adoption of JioMart, said Ambani.
The next investment trigger for Mukesh Ambani after Jio Platforms will be Reliance Retail. On Wednesday, the country’s richest person, chairman of Reliance Industries (RIL), said his retail unit had received “strong interest” from strategic and financial investors.

“We will induct global partners and investors into Reliance Retail in the next few quarters,” said Ambani, 63, pointing to the next phase of value unlocking at the firm. 

Ranked among the world’s top 100 retailers, Reliance Retail, whose turnover in financial year 2019-20 (FY20) was Rs 1.62 trillion, is ahead of the country’s second-largest retailer Future Group by a wide margin. Currently, the retail unit of RIL operates nearly 12,000 stores in over 6,600 towns and cities, covering an area of 28.7 million sq. ft. In comparison, Future Group operates 2,000 outlets in over 400 cities, covering an area of 16 million sq. ft. 

Analysts peg Future Group’s annual turnover at Rs 30,000 crore, though debt concerns and significant promoter pledging of shares in group entities has forced its founder Kishore Biyani to seek buyers for his business in the recent months. 

PremjiInvest owns 6 per cent stake in Future Retail, while Amazon has 3.6 per cent in Future Group flagship firm Future Retail. Biyani and Ambani are said to be holding talks for a potential stake sale in Future Group, though nothing has fructified yet. 

Ambani gave no indication of the same during his AGM address, focusing instead on the way ahead for his new commerce venture JioMart. The latter, which went live across 200 cities in May, has crossed 250,000 in daily orders, with the number growing each day, said Ambani. While the average order value on JioMart, according to analysts, is pegged at Rs 500 per transaction, Ambani is looking to raise this number by taking the platform into areas beyond grocery, including categories such as electronics, fashion, pharma, and health care. The firm would also deepen its ties with WhatsApp, which is owned by Facebook, to boost the reach of JioMart.

WhatsApp’s user base of over 400 million users in India will help accelerate the adoption of JioMart, said Ambani. 

The need to work ‘closely’ with WhatsApp also comes at a time when Amazon and Walmart-backed Flipkart ramp up their grocery services in the country. Both Amazon and Flipkart have been wooing kiranas aggressively in the past few months, giving the latter an additional avenue to reach consumers and do business. On Tuesday, Walmart led a $1.2-billion investment round in Flipkart in a bid to strengthen its India presence. 

Apart from kiranas and small merchants, Reliance Retail will also look to work closely with farmers to source more food items from them, as it seeks to scale up its farm-to-fork operations. “We sell more fruit and vegetables than any other organised retailer. The bond with tens of thousands of farmers has helped us source over 80 per cent of our fresh fruit and vegetable directly from farmers,” said Ambani. 

Reliance Retail will continue to push its presence into small towns and cities, added Ambani.

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